Solar home in suburban Cincinnati Ohio neighborhood

Can I Add More Solar Panels to My System? 

Can I Add More Solar Panels to My System?

A frequent question we get from our clients, new and old, is: “Can I add more solar panels to my system?

Imagine this: you’re a homeowner with a solar system. Your system has been working great for years You are happy that every day you feel like you’re making a difference  And you’re delighted to put your money towards an investment that adds value to your home and life.  

It’s the middle of summer, the sun is shining every day, and your system is producing the same amount of electricity as it has in years past.  But you notice – month after month – you’re paying more to your utility than you have in the past. What gives?  

Then you remember that hot tub you installed in your backyard last fall. You’re using more electricity now, and your solar power system is no longer meeting 100% of your household’s electric demand!  

What can you do?  You can add more solar power to your existing solar energy system! 

Sometimes our customers come to us knowing that their energy use will grow with time. They have a growing family. Sometimes they know that they are adding new appliances like pools or hot tubs a little down the line. Some even have big plans to upgrade their family fleet to all-electric vehicles in the coming years.  

Other families choose to size their system small on purpose, purchase what they can now, and plan to add more when they can later. 

And, what do they do when they’re ready to add more solar? Give us a call!  

Plan Ahead  

If you don’t have a solar energy system and anticipate adding more panels later down the line- let us know when designing your system. We will consult with you and select an inverter that will be compatible with those future energy goals.  

Are you considering battery backup? Let us know that when we’re designing or expanding your system. Solar systems with batteries require inverters that also charge the batteries and manage their energy output. Additionally, if you are thinking about adding home batteries, adding them at the same time you add panels to your system is a smart move.  

Inverter  

If you didn’t plan for expansion at the time of your initial installation, there is a chance you’ll need to upgrade your inverter to accommodate the addition.  

Space and location are other factors to consider when thinking about expanding your solar array. Is there available space left on your roof? Is it unshaded and unobstructed?  

Updates to Ohio Net-Metering  

When you went solar, it’s possible that Ohio’s net-metering rules wouldn’t allow you to produce more than 80% of your annual consumption. Your solar array may have been undersized to keep you away from the penalties associated with overproduction.

In 2020 Ohio’s net-metering rules were updated. In Ohio, through major, Public Owned Utilities, you can now produce up to 100% of what you consume in a year, making it possible for solar installers to get their homeowners to 100% offset without putting them at risk of those penalties.  

If you have solar now and are interested in expanding, we’ll work with you to understand how many additional panels you’ll need to make up for the energy your system isn’t generating for you right now. We’ll also make sure that you have enough available space to meet that need.  

Adding more solar panels – now or later – we’re here to help

We look forward to assisting you in determining the system size that meets your electricity goals. Whether you want to make additional upgrades to your existing system — or plan a smaller system now, with plans to expand later – we’re here to help you!  

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The Biden Election and Clean Energy: What to Expect

By: Geoff Greenfield, Third Sun President, and co-founder

As the dust settles around the election many are asking: “What does the election mean for clean energy in general?” and “How will a Biden Presidency impact my own plans for going solar?”

 

As divisive as our recent politics have become, clean energy and concern about the climate remains popular with Americans on both sides of the aisles.    America is a technology focused society and many, including Wall Street, are very optimistic about the future of clean energy.  While Biden campaigned heavily on climate and his $1.7 Trillion “Biden Plan”, he is probably entering office with a divided congress, so our focus here is on what is likely and achievable in this scenario.

With control of both houses of Congress Biden and the Democrats will be able to enact more aggressive legislation.  In this case, with a VP vote as the tiebreaker in the Senate, the threat of a filibuster is very real.  This threat, combined with Biden’s pledge (and track record) of bipartisanship, we still expect a much more moderate agenda.  Compromise will dilute the full strength “Biden Plan” published during the campaign.  Given the speed of the legislative process, rulemaking, and court appeals, we expect that any version of a “Biden Plan Light” would not impact the solar marketplace until 2023 at the earliest.

Solar as part of COVID-19 Relief

Congress is currently working on a bill focused on the COVID-19 crisis and jumpstarting the economy. While there will be name-calling and horse-trading, most political observers and economists are expecting fast bipartisan compromise .  Part of that horse-trading will involve clean energy policy.  We expect that a lot of the money invested in job creation (with a focus on major infrastructure projects) will include a clean energy focus.   Take a look back to the Obama-Biden recovery act after the 2008 housing crisis to see the history we expect to be repeated: support for weatherization, energy upgrades, efficient transportation, and solar on the rooftops of public buildings.

We expect more of this: solar on the roofs of public buildings, investments in batteries for resiliency at public shelter sites and police and fire stations, as well as a huge investment in EV charging stations at locations ranging from libraries to highway rest stops.  Republican cooperation may be achieved with giveaways to utilities  in the form of deferred grid infrastructure, nuclear, controversial carbon capture schemes, and “clean coal”.

  • 12/28/2020 Update: Read more on the passage of the Covid-19 relief package + tax credit extensions here. 

An Extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit

One hopeful area of bipartisan compromise may be extending (or expanding) the popular tax credit that supports solar. The solar Investment Tax Credit, or ITC, has gone through several stages of expiration and resurrection after its original passage in 2005 under the Bush administration.  The ITC has long been considered “the lifeblood” solar incentive in the United States.  According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the residential and commercial solar Investment Tax Credit has helped the U.S. solar industry grow by more than 10,000% since it was implemented.  The solar tax credit was originally intended to expire in 2007 but has seen multiple extensions leading up to our current situation: a stepped down “sunset” from 2020 to 2022.

Under the current timetable, the credit declined to 26% for systems placed in service in 2020 and drops to 22% for 2021 and then in 2022 drops to zero for homeowners and levels out at 10% for commercial entities.  One of the primary hopes of the solar industry at large is to see an extension of the tax credit.  Tax credits are often popular with Republicans, and in fact, in 2019 Senator Mitch McConnell approved a tax bill that included an extension of the solar and EV tax credits only to have them eliminated by Trump.  While I don’t think there are Las Vegas oddsmakers for such things I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that there is a greater than 50% chance that we see an extension (or even restoration to 30%) of this popular job creating tax credit in the coming year.

  • 12/28/2020 Update: Read more on the passage of the Covid-19 relief package + tax credit extensions here. 

Solar Tariffs

Another policy issue that Biden may attempt to use his executive authority is the solar tariff. In 2018 the Trump administration enacted a 30% tariff on most solar cells and modules produced outside of the United States.  While this did result in a few domestic module assembly plants, economists and analysts have concluded that it has created net job losses in the solar sector. The few manufacturing jobs created were overshadowed by  job losses in designing, installing, servicing and supplying in the solar installation sector.

Something to note here is that tariffs are less of a factor for residential solar customers (raising costs 1-2% for a typical residential scale project compared to the 8-10% cost increase on the huge utility-scale solar farms being built across the country). Ultimately the International Trade Commission makes decisions on these tariffs, though the President has significant influence in making a case for or against them.

 

The Big Picture

So… after that overview of what may or may not happen depending on control of Congress and the complexities of political compromise, here are some of the very likely actions we expect to see that are within the President’s executive authority.  Many of these actions are described in more detail in this article.

We already mentioned the immense impact of the Federal Government focusing its $500B annual budget on clean energy.  The Department of Defense has been moving in this direction for years and will likely accelerate investments in solar and micro-grids.  A “climate-focused” cabinet is being named as I write, including John Kerry in a new cabinet level role focused exclusively on climate.  As we (re)enter the Paris Climate Agreement we expect many global and domestic policy moves.

Biden will use the  Securities and Exchange Commission (and possibly the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department) to influence the private sector and capital markets.  He will mandate the inclusion of climate risk reporting, and this will impact the approach to investment underwriting  for many financial analysts and investors.  This phenomenon is already happening in the global markets, as powerful investors continue to downgrade the once powerful fossil fuel giants, sending their share prices and market caps tumbling. The impact of this is two-fold. As investments are less likely to move into carbon exposed businesses, they are more likely to flow toward clean energy replacements.  As their financial power wanes, so too shrinks their political influence in Washington and state capitals. The lobbyists that used to spoon-feed their legislation to our lawmakers will no longer be on speed-dial as they have less and less to donate to PACs and re-election campaigns.

 

The Biggest Climate Action We Expect

Using his executive powers, the biggest climate action Biden will take will be to begin accounting for the “true cost of carbon” in the pricing  of our energy markets.  This “tragedy of the commons” has been long lamented by environmentalists and economists alike.  While I do expect that these externalities are finally internalized, I do  not expect a carbon fee, cap and trade, or any of the other direct carbon pricing mechanisms favored by economists to be enacted (at least in a first term).  Biden did not include them in his “Biden Plan” and did not talk about them in his campaign.  Instead, I expect he will start with many less politically challenging mechanisms available An example of this  low-hanging fruit  is removing the $20B/year in subsidies that are currently given away to fossil fuel interests.

I predict he will remove various protections that open polluters up to paying damages.  He has pledged to stop issuing new drilling leases on Federal Land.  Perhaps most impactful will be the regulation of Methane (and possibly Carbon) as pollutants, leading to the  uptick of effective (and expensive) mitigation technologies. The net result of ALL of these steps will be an uptick in the price of brown energy to the consumer.  Raising brown power prices to better reflect their true cost is as powerful as lowering the price of clean energy with policy support.  This is a powerful phenomenon, and if amplified over time is another factor in what has been described as “the utility death spiral”. As better solar economics leads to more deployment, the utilities fund their bloated operating costs by raising prices. This in turn leads to more uptake of solar which lowers the cost of solar which leads to better solar economics… and then more of the same (you get the picture).

Finally, we expect Biden’s Department of Justice to aggressively go after polluters, especially those who have impacted the air, water, and soil of communities of color for decades.  This focus on intersectionality, equity, and environmental justice was a key campaign theme and will result in real improvements in air and water quality for millions of citizens. Additionally, this focus will eliminate another aspect of the “free ride to pollute” that artificially subsidizes the cost of fossil fuel energy.  As rates go up, reflecting the true cost of dirty energy, the incentive for consumers to invest in efficiency and shift to cleaner alternatives will be a natural market outcome.

 

The Bottom Line

As I have laid out above, I do not predict that we will see the sweeping vision of the Biden Plan as published during the campaign.  Instead, we will get a series of tactical moves that will still add up to have a big impact.  If you are considering solar for an institution or unit of government, I recommend you wait until  mid-2021 for details of the coming support.  In the meantime, I suggest that you begin to explore your options and position your organization to be competitive by getting projects ready (Third Sun Solar is ready to help).

For those considering solar for their home or business, there is no reason to wait.  As I laid out above, we don’t expect any new policies that would directly impact solar economics for private businesses and homeowners.  Solar has already moved from an environmentally righteous action of tree huggers to being a long term economically smart move.  We are hopeful for a tax credit extension and while we aren’t giving out tax advice, we believe that it is safe to expect that any projects placed in service in 2021 that qualify for the current tax credit would qualify for any new and improved tax policy.  As we laid out, we see the biggest policy impacts on the horizon accelerating the (inevitable) rise in the cost of dirty energy.  Investing in on-site solar has always been a “hedge” against energy cost volatility, and with the coming Biden policies, we see a big jump in the price of brown power.  The sooner we make a shift to clean energy, (each of us as individuals and together as a nation) the sooner we will enjoy the many beneficial outcomes: in our monthly budgets, in the air we breathe, and in the stability of the world we leave for future generations.

 

Solar During a Power Outage: How It Works

Solar During a Power Outage

When you install a solar energy system, you might expect that the lights will stay on when the power goes out because you’re generating your own power. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.  

With grid tied solar systems, any excess power you create will be stored in the utility grid. The grid is sort of like a big battery, you send power to it when you have excess and take energy from it when you need more. Because of this connection, when grid power goes out – so does yours. This keeps electricity from leaking onto the grid lines and putting folks working to correct the issue in harm’s way.  

To get power during a grid blackout, you will need a grid tied solar system with battery backup. When the grid is up and working, the system functions like a normal grid tied solar system. Some of the electricity your solar system produces will top off your batteries. In the case of grid failure, the batteries kick in to keep the lights on.  

A solar system with battery backup costs more than your traditional grid tied solar system but having power during a blackout can be invaluable to some. Any home that already has solar panels, is battery backup ready.  

You are a good candidate for a backup battery system if you: 

  • Want to know that you will have seamless energy when the grid is down  
  • Experience frequent power outages 
  • Experience extreme weather conditions 
  • Have critical appliances at your home 

Power Outages Becoming Increasingly Common

Unfortunately, we’re seeing power outages becoming more common place as more and more people are in the path of severe weather patterns. In some places power companies are preemptively shutting down the grid when they anticipate a blackout.  

The good news is that there are solutions to grid failures through battery and solar battery storage.  

Tesla Powerwall: Home Battery Storage  

Powerwall is a home battery system that turns your home’s solar panels into an all-day resource. Daily it increases your self-consumption of solar. In the event of an outage, it offers reliable home backup power. With Powerwall, more of your home’s electricity use will come from solar, which enhances solar functionality, reduces energy costs and provides peace of mind to homeowners.  

Powerwall allows you to store 14 kWh of energy and use that energy to run your home with solar during the night and back up your home in the event of a power outage. 

The technology withing Powerwall is able to detect a grid outage, disconnect from the grid and bring power back to your home in a fraction of a second. That is over 100x faster than typical standby generators, and fast enough to keep your appliances running without interruption. You will not have to reset your clocks or your alarm. Powerwall can provide backup to your entire home. However, depending on the type of appliances at your home, we may recommend an essential load backup instead of whole home backup. Read more about Tesla here. 

Right Sizing Your Backup System:

Whole Home Backup 

If you’re interested in whole home backup, our Solar Designers can analyze your homes electric use patterns and the recommended number of Powerwall’s needed to keep all loads running. In some cases, an upgrade to your electrical panel may be needed and we will advise you if this is the case. You can add more Powerwall’s to keep your house operational longer during an outage. 

Essential Load Backup  

If your electrical situation doesn’t require whole home backup, we can backup select essential loads. Since lights and outlets require less energy, a single Powerwall will typically be enough.  

 

In summary, during a grid blackout, power from your solar system won’t be available for you to use unless you have a backup battery system. If you’re interested to learn more about solar or battery back-up, give us a call today! 1-877-OWN-SOLAR.  

 

 

 

 

Lithium Ion Batteries & New Advancements in Solar Storage

This week we celebrate advancements in the field of lithium-ion battery storage, with The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, Akira Yoshino “for the development of lithium-ion batteries.” These batteries are the central technology in contemporary solar storage. While Lithium-Ion batteries are used in devices of all types, they have enabled huge developments in fossil-free energy storage. They have also enabled the development of long range electric cars.

Join Solar Designer, Jack Hadley as he discusses solar batteries, why solar batteries are useful and what makes Tesla Powerwall different.

What type of home needs solar batteries?

While solar batteries add to the cost of your solar project and lessen the ROI, some households find they are worth the investment. You should consider batteries for your solar system if…

  • Your home is remote and isn’t tied into the utility grid;
  • You experience frequent power outages;
  • You have critical appliances; or
  • You experience extreme weather conditions

Learn more or to sign up to chat with a solar & Powerwall expert…

 

Solar Installation on a Barn in Athens, Ohio

Third Sun Solar Homes & Brewery on the National Solar Tour

On October 5 & 6, 2019, hundreds of home and business owners who have gone solar across the United States hosted solar open houses on the National Solar Tour, to share the power of solar energy with their communities. Homeowners welcome members of the community into their homes to see their solar system up close and hear testimonial experience and reasoning for going solar.

For a complete list of participating homes across the states and across Ohio, visit the National Solar Tour Map page here. 

Who is participating?

  • The 2019 National Solar Tour brought together solar energy supporters from all across the country and all walks of life.
  • There were more than 800 sites and 70 local solar tours participating across 46 states.

What did attendees learn?

  • Solar open houses are a chance to visit homes and businesses that use solar energy, green building design, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and other innovative or proven technologies.
  • Tour attendees will be able to see local renewable energy in action. They can ask home and business owners about their systems.
  • The Tour is an opportunity for solar supporters to network with each other for a fun and educational experience.
  • Solar tour visitors will learn about:
    • Reducing electricity costs;
    • Supporting energy independence;
    • Protecting against power outages; and
    • Reducing carbon emissions.

Why Attend?

  • Connect with others who are interested in solar;
  • See a solar system in action;
  • Find answers to your questions;
  • Share stories of your solar journey; and
  • Celebrate the power of solar energy!

Sunbury, Ohio

Event information: https://www.nationalsolartour.org/open-houses/1468/

This 28 panel ground mounted array is a 7.5 kW solar system. It offsets the homes energy consumption by 68% and will save the homeowners $62,543 over the lifetime of the system.

Powell, Ohio

Event information: https://www.nationalsolartour.org/open-houses/1314/

Solar homeowner & host, Michael Schaal is a renewable energy advocate and independent solar consultant.  While relatively new to commercial solar, Michael has been passionate about renewable energy for many years.  His initial interest led him to pursue solar energy for his own home after successfully overturning local homeowner association restrictions on solar.  In addition to promoting solar in his neighborhood (3 homes and counting!), Michael is also active regionally with Solar United Neighbors and has presented at their annual conference on overcoming HOA obstacles. 

Check out his 7.5 kW black on black solar array, learn about Home Owners Associations & get all of your solar questions answered.

Athens, Ohio

Event information: https://www.nationalsolartour.org/open-houses/1089/

Did you know that Ohio favorite Jackie O’s is a solar powered brewery?

“Our eventual goal is 100 percent sustainability,”  said Founder Art Osterike,  “A good economy and healthy planet aren’t mutually exclusive and we look forward to working with Third Sun Solar to show that to beer lovers and decision makers across Ohio, the Midwest and the entire country.”

Akron, Ohio

Event information: https://www.nationalsolartour.org/open-houses/535/

43 black on black solar panels make up this 13.5 kW array. The array is offsetting 92% of the home’s energy usage over the course of the year. Over the lifetime of the system, we estimate that these Akron homeowners will save $116,594 in energy costs. Check out the energy & sustainability upgrades the homeowners have made to their home in addition to solar!

 

Buying A Solar Home Checklist

Congratulations!

Maybe you bought or are thinking about buying a home with a solar energy system. We’re not surprised. With the growing popularity of solar, you may encounter solar on some of the houses you see.  

So, what do you need to know when considering buying a house with solar? If the previous homeowner owns the solar array, they will be transferring all the benefits to you. These benefits come in the form of reduced electric bills and clean, renewable power. You may pay a little more for the home itself due to the increased home value that comes with solar. But, think about it this way: would you rather pay $200,000 for a home with electric bills that cost $300 per month or $225,000 for a home with electric bills $50 or less.  

New-To-You Solar Homeowner Checklist  

 

1. Get Educated About Solar 

Because you didn’t purchase the solar yourself, you didn’t go through the solar buying process that would have educated you on the many facets of solar homeownership. Here are a few resources to get started: 

 

 2. Learn About Your New Solar Array 

How old is the solar system on your new home? What type of solar panels make up the solar array? How much is it worth? We recommend requesting the following documents from the company that installed the solar energy system to find answers to these important questions.  

  • The original quote or contract for your solar energy system including the scope of work, equipment, sale price and warranty information.  
  • The built drawings of your solar energy system.   
  • Information about the specific equipment that makes up your solar system.  
  • With the help of the previous homeowner or your solar installer, learn how to log in to your online monitoring platform to track the performance of your solar array. 

 

 3.  Set up Solar Renewable Energy Credits in Your Name  

Solar Renewable Energy Certificates or SRECs (pronounced “ESS-rek”), are annual credits for the clean electricity produced by your solar PV system. They represent “the renewable energy attributes” associated with one megawatt-hour of electricity produced by your system each year (one megawatt-hour is equal to 1,000 kilowatt hours of solar). 

A general rule of thumb in Ohio is 1kW of solar capacity will produce approximately 1 SREC per year.  Therefore, a 5kW solar PV system will produce about 5 SRECs per year and a 10kW system will produce about 10 SRECs per year. 

When you buy a home with a solar system, the SREC certification, registration and agreements are transferable to the new owner. To do this, the SREC broker who currently holds the account will need the contact information of the new property owners and associated closing documents showing the transfer of ownership.  

There are different buyers, brokers and aggregators to choose from to sell your SRECs.  Third Sun Solar suggests Knollwood Energy, or Sol Systems to our customers. 

 

4. Add your solar system to you homeowners insurance 

Using the information you’ve collected, add your solar energy system to your homeowner’s insurance. This is a good way to protect the system in the case of damage. 

 

5. Switch your interconnection agreement 

Give your solar installer a call and ask them to switch the name on your interconnection agreement with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (or your states Public Utility Commission). 

  

Interested in more?  We are always willing to help you with any questions you might have about your new solar array. 

 

 

 

Selling A Solar Home  

Selling a Home with a Solar Energy System

In addition to the many benefits that solar adds to a home, increased property value can be found among them. Let’s face it – the home you’re in now might not be the home that you live in for the next 25 or more years. With your solar system lasting at least 25 years (and some functioning even after 40 years!) you may wonder: what happens if I move? You may relocate for work or choose to downsize. Should you still consider solar if you aren’t sure you’ll be in your home forever? YES! Do not let a future move keep you from living your renewable energy dreams now.

As solar becomes more mainstream, real estate agents, appraisers and homeowners are looking to know more about what a solar energy system does to the value of a home. We’re glad others are asking this question too, which has resulted in several studies published on the topic.

The findings:

  • A recent report by Zillow shows that on a national average, homes with solar sold for 4.1% more than homes without solar. So by investing in solar, you’re both saving money now AND increasing the resale value of your home.
  • The Berkeley National Laboratory & U.S Energy department (Appraising Into The Sun) found “strong, appraisal-based evidence of PV premiums in each of seven market areas in six states.
  • The Berkeley National Laboratory (Exploring California PV Home Premiums) concludes that “each 1-kW increase in size equates to a $5,911 higher Premium”

Much of the research to date has been done on the west coast, a leader in the solar energy movement. As the burgeoning solar movement continues, we will see more data to analyze in the Midwest. At Third Sun Solar we have known customers to purchase and sell homes with our solar systems installed, and all parties have been happy with the results.

Return on Investment

Solar brings more to a home purchase than any other home improvement:

  1. The ROI is much higher for the purchasing homeowner, who benefits from reduced electric bills
  2. There is environmental ROI seen in the reduction of carbon emissions
  3. The ROI on long lasting solar equipment increases as traditional electric costs rise
  4. Existing solar installations can be grandfathered into older and more lucrative Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) plans that are no longer available. In some cases, picking a home with solar will get your buyers even higher SREC pricing than they could get today. 

Solar Stands Out 

Solar can help you stand out in a crowded market. A solar energy array is an important marketing piece. You will attract the attention of home buyers interested in solar and renewable energy. Make it pop! With a national increase of attention on renewable energy – solar is quite popular. Highlight the benefits. And be prepared to answer any questions potential buyers might ask. Who installed the solar system? What is the size of the solar system? What is the warranty period?  

Take a look at the types of things a solar home-buyer is thinking about when looking at your solar home. 

Even if you have a portion of a solar loan to pay off, the premium price you get on your home due to the solar array could offset that cost & potentially create a profit 

 

Third Sun Solar is interested in working with you to generate a free solar estimate for your home. We’re Ohio’s oldest & most trusted installer. We’re proud of the work we do.  

If you’re interested in getting a free solar estimate for your home give us a call during office hours at 740-249-4533 or fill out the form below to be put in touch with a knowledgeable Solar Consultant.  

 

  • Get A Solar Evaluation

Bi-Directional Metering in Ohio

All residential solar systems that maintain a connection with their utility company require a bi-directional meter. A bi-directional meter measures the flow of electricity in two directions. It measures how much energy you’ve consumed and how much solar energy you’ve fed back into the grid. Read more about net metering here. 

When do I turn my solar system on?

Before you begin the operation of your solar system, wait until your utility installs your bi-directional meter . This is to avoid any generation fees.

Why do I have to wait for the bi-directional meter to be installed?

Some standard meters may include a feature that prevent it from turning backwards and registering reverse power flow. In this case, even though your facility should reduce the amount of electricity the electricity your facility generates in relation to your current consumption would not be measured or subtracted from your overall electrical energy use.

Unfortunately, turning your solar energy system on before the bidirectional meter is installed can lead to extremely large utility bills. In the case that your solar system is on and the bidirectional meter is not yet installed, you could be charged for the energy your solar system produces. This is because your current meter understands all the energy you’ve created as energy used.

Third Sun Solar’s Role

Following installation and inspection of your system, Third Sun Solar will submit a request for bi-directional meter exchange.

Typically, the utility company will install the bidirectional meter anywhere from a week to a month post notification. Unfortunately, your solar company does not have control over when the utility will replace your meter. Additionally, your solar installer and you, the homeowner, are not always notified by the utility that the meter has been swapped! This can leave you waiting and checking your meter regularly, in anticipating of turning on your new solar array!

At Third Sun, we will be persistent in trying to make this happen! If it takes an unusually long time (over a month) we will file a case with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (or your state’s Public Utilities Commission) to have them intervene and help accelerate the process.

The Solar Homeowners Role

Be vigilant! Check on your meter! Because the utility company might not notify you or your installer about the meter swap, it’s possible that they install it while you aren’t looking. For the first month, go ahead and check on your meter every once in awhile to see if it has been switched out.  This is what you’re looking for:

Fine Print Information about Net-Metering and Meter Exchanges

Be aware, as a net-metering customer, you are required to report yearly excess generation credits that total $600 or more to the IRS as miscellaneous income and your utility is required to report this information to you and to the IRS.

Please note that you are responsible for operating the facility safely, in accordance with the terms of the Application/Agreement and the manufacturer’s instructions. You also are to perform regular maintenance and inspections in accordance with accepted practices and the manufacturer’s instructions.

Useful Links:

 

Solar Array in Cleveland Ohio on Tudor Home

Net-Metering for Solar in Ohio  

Ohio Net-Metering

In sunny peak months in Ohio, solar systems often produce more energy than a home can consume. Have you ever wondered what happens to this excess electricity? Or how you, the homeowner, benefit from the extra energy your solar energy system produces? In Ohio, Net-Metering is the process that accounts for this difference in production & use. 

Net-metering allows you to store the energy you produce in the electric grid, in the form of credits. When you produce more energy than you need, excess electricity travels back into the power grid. Energy sent back into the grid goes to power your neighbors’ homes. The State of Ohio requires that the utility company credit you for the energy you produced and send along. These credits appear on your monthly electric bill to help you keep track.  

During sunny summer months, when your solar system is producing more than the energy you are using, you bank up credits. During the winter months, your home uses more energy than your solar system produces, and you use up the credits you’ve earned.  

You will be charged for the energy you take use from the traditional electric grid (when your solar panels aren’t producing). You can pay for that extra energy using the credits you accrue during times your solar system is producing more energy than you are using.  

Know that net-metering rules change from state to state. This description of net-metering applies to the net-metering rules in the state of Ohio. Some states may be similar, but we always recommend finding local information because solar rules and regulations vary so widely.

Why is net metering important?

Net metering increases the economic benefit of solar power by crediting you for the power your solar energy system produces.  The amount of energy you produce and use will vary over the course of the year. Net metering helps you account for this difference by crediting you for the excess electricity your panels produce so you can use it later. 

Your utility benefits from net metering because electricity is generated so close to where it is consumed. This diminishes the amount of electricity lost when power is transmitted across miles of wires. Additionally, it helps reduce strain on the grid during peak demand times: like on hot, sunny days.

Will I receive payment for the excess energy I produce?  

You’ll get credits to be used on an annual basis to offset the cost of electricity that you take from the grid during times when your solar system is not producing energy. These credits rollover from month to month. A surprise to some: you will not receive a check from your utility for the excess energy you put back into the grid. 

At what rate do utility companies credit me for my usage?

Electric companies credit you at a net excess generation rate. The State of Ohio’s net metering policy does not require utilities to credit energy you produce at the full retail rate.  

This rate depends on your electric company. Your experienced Solar Consultant can help you understand what your utility’s net excess generation rate is.

Can my energy bill be $0?

In many cases, yes!   

Some utility companies have a single fixed cost, or customer charge, that all customers are required to pay each month. However, in many cases, you can use credits to pay down the fixed monthly costs.  We often see $0 electric bills sent to us by our customers!  

How much energy from my electric company will I purchase annually, when I have a solar system?

We don’t design all solar systems to meet 100% of a home’s electric usage over the course of the year. Why? This depends on many factors, but primarily the amount of space a home has for solar panels. Your solar consultant will work with you to design a solar system that makes sense for your home’s annual electricity usage.  

Third Sun Solar has worked with hundreds of homeowners across the state of Ohio and beyond. We have close working relationships with all of Ohio’s many rural cooperatives and public utilities.

 

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Solar Batteries Becoming Increasingly Common   

Here at Third Sun Solar we are finding that our residential customers are increasingly interested in purchasing battery storage with their solar energy system. Battery systems are valuable for many reasons. They provide peace of mind to individuals who experience frequent power outages. Especially in rural areas in Ohio, grid outages are common. Solar batteries help families regain control over their home lives by providing a source of power that doesn’t rely on the energy company.   

Is Your Grid Reliable?   

Some people don’t know that The National Electric Code mandates grid tied solar systems shut off during a power outage. Why? During a power outage, the power utility sends out repair crews to find and fix the points of failure. Power leaking onto the grid lines endangers linemen and women fixing the service issue. Therefore, utility rules mandate that in the event of a power outage, solar arrays must automatically shut down. Solar systems have detectors that sense whether power is coming across the grid. Solar systems automatically shut down when the grid fails. This is a done to protect utility workers.  

Because batteries store excess solar energy, they still function during a power outage.  

What are battery backup systems?   

Battery backup systems are a lot like they sound.  Batteries are used as an emergency power source during power outages.  Solar energy created from you array charges the batteries, then the batteries power your home.  These systems are generally not designed to backup whole house loads, but rather critical loads such as lighting, sump pumps, furnace blowers, refrigeration, etc.  Third Sun Solar installs battery backup solutions to for homeowners who request backup batteries in addition to a solar PV system.  

By design, solar battery systems provide backup power during grid failure. Solar batteries do not typically support nighttime loads.  

Maintenance   

Batteries are much like a car, if you park in the garage and never pay attention to it, it will not work when you need it.  Depending on the type of battery technology you choose, there may be some battery maintenance such as topping off fluid levels and equalizing the batteries (lead-acid batteries).  Other types of batteries, like lithium-ion batteries, require much less maintenance. Batteries need to cycle, this means that the power levels need to reach a low point to get charged to full again. Additionally, battery charge levels need observation both during use and while not in use. 

They level of attention your solar batteries will need depends on your choice of technology. Compared to lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries are virtually trouble free, however the inverters and communications systems will need modified as time goes on and new features become available 

A solar battery customer will have a higher level of engagement with their batteries than your typical solar homeowner. Maybe you have a technical mindset & are interested in being involved with the solar battery system.  If you’re interested in a hands off system, a generator may be a better choice to achieve your backup power goal. 

Why now?   

We are in a new era of solar energy storage. Lithium ion batteries are a wonderful technology and new innovations like the Tesla Powerwall are making their way into the market. Don’t forget- the 30% federal tax credit drops after 2019– and solar battery purchases count in this tax credit. 

For customers who experience frequent grid outages and want to regain control of their energy, batteries are a great solution. Comfort comes from knowing that you’ll have the power you need even when the grid is down. With a battery system, energy is reliably ready for you at any moment.   

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